— Mary Albl (@MaryAlbl) November 5, 2015
NORWALK >> Fairfield Ludlowe’s Michael McArdle’s minutes have been limited this fall due to an injury.
But on Wednesday night in the FCIAC final — McArdle, who’s been slowly working himself back — showed exactly why he’s one of the top players in the league.
McArdle scored a pair of goals, including the game winner, as Ludlowe defeated Darien 2-1 at Testa Field to win the FCIAC boys soccer final.
It is the second straight year the Falcons have won the conference title.
“It’s really awesome coming off an injury, I’ve been hurt for like the second half of the season,” McArdle said. “But coming back like this, it’s the first time I’m feeling like myself since last season; it’s nice.”
McArdle, who has been battling a hamstring injury this season, earned MVP honors as he played the best game of the season.
“Pure will,” Ludlowe head coach Kevin O’Hara said of McArdle’s performance.
Ludlowe, which went undefeated a season ago, winning the program’s first conference crown, has experienced a different season. But the senior-laded squad has relied on its experience to propel them to an impressive FCIAC tournament run, including a semifinal victory over top-seeded Danbury.
“We try to teach these kids how to handle adversity, the ups and downs of the season and what our real goal at the end of year was, to be playing good soccer,” O’Hara said.
After a scoreless and evenly matched first half Wednesday, McArdle got his team on board in the 52nd minute as Niklas Stahle fired a shot off the post that McArdle somehow ended up having two chances at to score. After a deflection from the Darien keeper, McArdle headed it home for the 1-0 lead.
“The fight that they have to keep pounding the goal,” O’Hara said of his team.
Darien, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, didn’t give up. After pressing for some time, the Blue Wave tied the game late in the second half as Toby Hansford found teammate Pablo Martinez who placed the ball perfectly to the far right bottom corner for the goal.
With 4:23 left in the game, McArdle netted the eventual game-winner as he raced down the field as teammate Matteus Nascimento took the ball down the left side and was able to send a perfectly placed ball to McArdle who scored.
“I saw myself open, I raised my hand, I knew I was open, I knew I could get it,” McArdle said.
Added Darien head coach Jon Bradley: “We kind of got back in the game… it only takes one mistake to cost you a game, and unfortunately we were on the wrong end of it. But I thought it was a very good game.”
Both teams will now gear up for the state tournament.
“To win the FCIAC once, to do it back to back is a real credit to these kids,” O’Hara said.